In July, the Trump administration made the decision for data on COVID-19 to no longer go through the CDC. Hospital data was to be directed to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which led to delays and confusion. This decision led to a plethora of problems, with data not being tracked accurately.
When the change occurred, hospitals were only given a few days’ notice, and were informed that they had to adopt the new reporting system or they would not have access to the federal supply of remdesivir, a drug that can help with COVID-19.
The decision incurred much backlash, including from CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who asked, “What logic does this have, other than to take away the data from the epidemiologists that are the best in the world at looking at this data, making sense of it, translating it for people, versus giving it to HHS?”
Reversal of the policy
Now, the policy has been reversed. White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx announced that now COVID-19 data will once again be collected by the CDC.
Birx called the current system an interim system, and said, “CDC is working with us right now to build a revolutionary new data system so it can be moved back to the CDC, and they can have that regular accountability with hospitals relevant to treatment and PPE.”
Importance of accurate data
Data tracked include how many intensive care unit (ICU) beds and ventilators are available, how much personal protective equipment (PPE) is in stock, prevalence of infection, and more essential numbers which the CDC updates on its website three times per week.
Dr. Vineet Chopra of the University of Michigan stated that the CDC collecting data again “would help us tremendously in getting back on track with respect to reporting and understanding what’s happening with this pandemic across the region, the state and the nation.”
Former CDC chief science officer Lisa M. Lee said that if the CDC were put back in charge of coronavirus data “for the long haul, we would have a much better system [because] we have professional surveillance scientists at CDC and public health professionals who have the expertise to handle data that are this complex.”